A Texas jury recently ordered a college student to pay over $21 million in damages after finding him guilty of gross negligent for texting while driving and causing a fatal crash. This is one of the largest verdicts ever obtained in a texting-while-driving case. (Small v. Vestal, No. 08-01-18000-CV (Tex., Robertson Co. Dist. Ct. Mar. 17, 2010).)
In 2007, Jason Reed Vestal was driving his pickup truck down Highway 6 near Calvert, Texas, when he crossed the center-line and hit an oncoming car head-on. The crash killed the other driver, 21-year-old Megan Small, a student at Baylor University. It also injured Small’s friend Laura Gleffe, who was driving behind her and was run off the road by Vestal’s truck.
The Plaintiff’s lawyer became suspicious when he deposed Vestal, who insisted that he did not have his phone with him when he was driving. His phone records were subpoenaed and it was discovered that Vestal had made 7 phone calls and sent 15 text messages during the 45 minutes he was on the road. Some of the messages were sent and received moments before the crash.